Native American Symbolic Rituals Three Term Paper

Pages: 4 (1268 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 3  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Native Americans


At times there were dances that were common to the entire tribe and these could be performed by professional dancers and singers would accompany them.


The potlatch was the celebration that encompassed all of the ingredients of the totem pole and the Tamanawas. The three worked together to preserve the history and spiritual beliefs of the people who were attending them. The totem poles were representations of the various bands that cam to the celebration, and the various dances were performed, as mentioned above, to demonstrate the people's feelings about their totems and the rich cultural history. This three-pronged approach was a way for the people to connect with each other and their heritage.

Disbanding the Potlatch

Unfortunately, the Canadian and United States governments did not see the utility of the potlatch. As a matter of fact, the celebration was a danger to their plans. The white people moving into the region were setting up businesses and they needed workers. It was easy for them to find labor because there were plenty of tribes in the area. This was in the interest of the governments of these two countries also because it provided fresh tax revenue and jobs for people in the more eastern provinces and states. Thus, the government wanted to make sure that the Native Americans stayed in place, and once they had been moved to the new towns being built that they did not revert to their traditional ways.

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This proved difficult because the people loved their native way of life and the ceremonies that were a law among the people. So, they continued to hold the potlatch every year. But, "the opponents of the potlatch could only see the custom as a wasteful, immoral and heathen practice, an impediment in the road of progress" (U'Mista Cultural Center). The powerful governments were being pressured to do something about the potlatch because it made it difficult to incorporate the Native American tribes into what was to be their new culture. Thus, the governments created a law that read, in part:

TOPIC: Term Paper on Native American Symbolic Rituals Three Assignment

"Every Indian or other person who engages in or assists in celebrating the Indian festival known as the "Potlatch" or the Indian dance known as the "Tamanawas" is guilty of a misdemeanor, and shall be liable to imprisonment for a term not more than six nor less than two months in a jail or other place of confinement; [and] Any Indian or other person who encourages, either directly or indirectly an Indian or Indians to get up such a festival or dance, or to celebrate the same, or who shall assist in the celebration of same is guilty of a like offence, and shall be liable to the same punishment" (U'Mista Cultural Center).

This practice was carried out by the "Indian" agents who were placed in the position to help the Native Americans, but more often than not actually took advantage of them. One agent raided a potlatch, arrested more than 40 Native Americans who were engaged in the ceremony, and stole many of the treasured artifacts used in the ceremony.

The practice of denying the tribes this important piece of their culture continued into the 1950's when the people again began to openly have potlatch ceremonies. Eventually, even the artifacts that were stolen from them were returned. However, these trappings of the old potlatch's were placed in a museum so that all Canadians could enjoy them. The Native Americans gladly shared their culture with all citizens of the country.

Works Cited

Legends of America. "Native American Legends: Native American Totems and the Meanings." Legends of America, 2010. Web.

Syzgvastro. "The Potlatch Ceremony (To Give Away)." (2008). Web.

U'Mista Cultural Center. "The Potlatch Collection History." U'Mista… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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How to Cite "Native American Symbolic Rituals Three" Term Paper in a Bibliography:

APA Style

Native American Symbolic Rituals Three.  (2012, March 7).  Retrieved September 18, 2021, from

MLA Format

"Native American Symbolic Rituals Three."  7 March 2012.  Web.  18 September 2021. <>.

Chicago Style

"Native American Symbolic Rituals Three."  March 7, 2012.  Accessed September 18, 2021.